A deeply inappropriate worthiness interview when I was 12 or 13 years old traumatized me when a bishop went through the “For the Strength of Youth” pamphlet and asked me about every single item inside, including my media viewing habits, my friendships, masturbation, “necking/petting,” etc. It was overwhelming and terrifying. The sexual questions in particular made me deeply embarrassed. In my early 20’s I was asked extremely detailed questions by a priesthood leader, including whether or not I had achieved sexual climax during a kissing session. As a missionary, I was asked to interpret a worthiness interview between my mission president and a local young woman who wanted to serve a mission. He asked her all kinds of questions, many of which I didn’t know the words for in the language (e.g. masturbation), and so I had to describe the act in order to get the point across.
I have been treated for obsessive-compulsive disorder and complex trauma as a result of these experiences. I have had 10 years of therapy, take anti-anxiety medication, and struggled with suicidal ideation for several years. Recent therapists have agreed that this practice significantly contributed to my mental health issues, if not triggering them entirely, and have been horrified when I have described the process of worthiness interviews. They have described the practice as abusive and my symptoms as being consistent with an abuser survivor’s.
I am now a minister in training in the Lutheran tradition. The requirement of worthiness interviews makes a mockery of the miracle of Christ’s love and forgiveness. Were I to conduct anything remotely resembling worthiness interviews, I would be disciplined and removed from my role as pastor. It is an abusive, abhorrent practice that robs people of the hope they have in Christ. It needs to be completely abandoned.